Social selling is the latest and greatest in ISV marketing outreach strategies and for good cause; according to LinkedIn (the go-to platform for B2B social selling), 78 percent of social sellers outsell their peers who don’t use social media for sales outreach. Social selling goes well beyond your friend on Facebook selling beauty products or those annoying Inmail messages you get that are just plain advertisements; it is a strategy to organically generate sales by engaging with prospects on social media platforms and building relationships with them overtime.
People tend to buy from the brands they know and believe in. The key to social selling is building and nurturing a network of prospects in such a way so as to establish credibility and trust. While it is a longer-term strategy and won’t generate qualified sales leads overnight, social selling can be a very powerful tool to help build a solid pipeline of opportunities if it’s done well.
Here are the best practices for social selling when you’re a software vendor:
Know Your Buyer Personas and Where They Are Online
Conducting an audit of your buyer personas and where they are present (i.e., the groups, forums and platforms that they are a part of) will help you define your strategy. Understanding the types of companies and the job titles within those organizations you want to target and why will help keep you focused on your ideal prospect. Social selling can work very well with account-based marketing efforts and should be integrated as part of a holistic marketing plan, but you need to lay the framework for that first by looking at all the channels you can tap into in order to reach your audience.
Create a Message Tree and a Content Calendar
A message tree is an outline of the different Inmails you can send to a contact in order to get them interested in establishing a dialogue with you. As with telemarketing, you cannot use a standard copy/paste every time you reach out to someone; the messages need to be highly tailored to each individual. However, the message tree (as with a script for cold calling) is a guide that’s there to help you keep your focus on the right call-to-action. The purpose is to expose your prospects to content and get them interested in a meeting when they are ready to go further in the discussion. Make sure that your initial outreach does not sound too sales-y as this can be a big turn-off for your contacts. Showing an interest in the contact and reaching out in such a way to suggest that your connection could be mutually beneficial will increase your chances of engagement.
A content calendar will help you map out the posts you want to expose your audience to on your LinkedIn thread, in groups, or on a dedicated Showcase page that you create and manage. Not only will this type of content help establish legitimacy for your profile, it should help educate your audience about your offer over time. Integrating hashtags into your posts will also help increase exposure for them. Such hashtags can be listed out in the audit you conduct prior to building your content calendar.
Make Your Profile About Your Brand
It is important to create a profile that revolves around your brand, and not around your job responsibilities. While social media profiles used to be a kind of online résumé or CV, no-one cares about what you are responsible for anymore. Unless you are a job seeker, your social media profile should describe your product or service. Having “what’s in it for me” messaging will help you increase the number of contacts in your network; since people usually look at connection requests quickly, you want to grab a prospect’s attention with some information about your product that will resonate with your audience.
Same goes for your job title. The trend nowadays is to make up fun job titles like “Business Wizard” or “Customer-Relationship Guru.” Out-of-the-box job titles are a great way stand-out from the crowd. Sales-related job titles can be a turn off to people as they may think you are only looking to connect in order to cram a sales-pitch down their throats. Your job title does not have to be the one you have written on your business card (which may be too formal anyway).
Don’t forget to have a nice photo of yourself. It doesn’t have to be one that is taken by a professional photograph, but avoid using your company logo or a photo that does not show your face clearly (and without sunglasses!). People want to engage with people, so how you portray yourself in your photo is as important as your profile description. And make sure to keep your profile up-to-date by making regular tweaks to it every few weeks.
Proactively Reach Out to Prospects
Connecting with prospects and growing your network is a must. However, if you try to reach out to too many prospects at one time (especially if they are well outside of your initial network), LinkedIn algorithms will flag your activity as being suspicious and you may even get your profile restricted. You should try to connect with the contacts of your contacts (if they are also part of your target buyer personas) since that will help keep your network tight.
Being too sales-y or pushy in the first exchanges will only decrease your chances of getting a response. Keep in mind that people on LinkedIn are looking to create relationships that are mutually beneficial; if the messages you send to people are too one-sided, they will just be ignored. Tailoring your pitches to each person you connect with will dramatically increase your chances of starting a dialogue. Using spot-basis telemarketing can also help jump-start a relationship when the first Inmail messages go unanswered.
Don’t Forget About Social Listening
Social listening is key to learning about your buyer personas, their online activity, and what’s important to them. It should help you improve your messaging, and provide you with valuable market intelligence. In any conversation, there needs to be an equal balance between talking and listening (otherwise the person you are talking to is going to get bored and walk away). So take time to read the articles your prospects are posting, visit the groups they are part of and see what questions they are asking (or responding to). Not only will this help you better tailor your outreach messages, but it will also provide you with information about how you can better position your solution.
Be Prepared to Nurture and Educate
Social selling is not an instantaneous way to get hundreds of qualified sales opportunities, but it is a way to help the potential buyer on his or her journey. Educating your audience about your offer will help give them the information they need so that when they are ready to go to the next level, they know where to turn and who to contact. Punctually reaching out to people to keep the conversation going will work wonders to help establish the trust you need to get the sale at the end of the day. While this takes time and energy, it’s a must. Having stellar content will help you with this process.
Measuring Social Selling Success
Measuring the ROI of a social selling program should involve more than focusing only on closed sales deals that resulted directly from your efforts. Success should revolve around engagement—what prospects are engaging with your content and how? Have you seen an increase in the number of followers to your social media pages? Are people liking or sharing your content? Is the sales team happy with the quality of the leads they are asked to follow-up? It is important to study all of the parameters that are specific to your own social selling initiative in order to establish KPI’s that make sense for your business. If done right, you start to see results within a few weeks.
The bottom line is that social selling as a method is proven successful, and those who engage in it regularly sell more than those who don’t. But let’s be clear—just going on to LinkedIn and sending out the occasional Inmail message to the random prospect is NOT social selling. It takes energy and effort to build a network and sustain it overtime. It takes monitoring groups, social listening, liking other people’s posts, creating your own, being on top of newsworthy events that make a particular message to a particular prospect at a particular time important… You need to source new contacts, research companies, and use multi-channel outreach in order to engage.
Outsourcing social selling will help free up your sales reps for face-to-face meetings. Let them do the selling, but give the leg work to someone else that can do it for them. If your sales reps have more time to conduct demos or presentations, write proposals or create POC’s, you’ll convert more. So outsourcing the activity can have its benefits and should enable your sales team to follow-up highly qualified sales leads with prospects who are very far along in the buyer journey.
Having a holistic approach to marketing will help improve the results of your social selling program. So leveraging other campaigns as part of your strategy can help you get the most bang for your buck.